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Heirlooms and Avoiding Family Fights

Though it may be hard to believe, when it comes to estate planning money is not always the thing that family wants the most. Oftentimes the biggest family fights occur over heirlooms and items of sentimental value. In fact, many times the most fought over items of property have little or no monetary value at all. But that does not eliminate the significance of these items for the family members involved, nor does it neutralize the effect a family fight or dispute can have on relationships. That’s why it’s so important to keep in mind the emotional value of the property that may be in your estate and the best ways that you can distribute these times without causing family problems.

The Racine Law Office has provided premier Idaho estate planning services to our clients for more than 70 years. During this time, we have helped numerous families create a customized plan that helped avoid family fights even when it came to distributing and giving away heirlooms and other items of sentimental value. Our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and experience to assist you and your family with all your estate planning needs.

Our estate planning team is made up of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of the attorneys on our team have received the highest ratings possible from several legal ranking services including Martindale and Hubbell, AVVO, and Justia. More importantly, our Idaho estate planning lawyers consistently receive the highest reviews possible from current clients and families that we have assisted through the estate planning process.

When it comes to giving away heirlooms and other items of property that have sentimental value and avoiding family fights we are confident that we can help you. To get you started here are several things that you should consider.

Sometimes the Most Disputed Items Have Little to no Monetary Value

As stated above, the most important thing that you should think about first is the fact that many family fights are about items that have little or no monetary value. The problem is, this does not make these family fights any less real or damaging. Whether it’s a gun that’s been in the family for generations, or an item of jewelry that used to belong to great grandma, families usually have a pretty good idea of the items that Mom and Dad own that have significant sentimental value for the family. When it comes to estate planning this is usually a great place to start thinking about who you want your property to be given to when you die.

This is far better than the system that is used by some families where Mom and Dad in casual conversation will let a child know that they are going to leave a specific item of property to them when they die. Moms and Dads sometimes forget having these conversations but I can tell you with the authority of experience in working with families that the children never forget these conversation. There have been countless times when we have been completing a probate and a child of a deceased parent will tell us their parent told them several times that they were to receive that property. However, ultimately in the probate process that property ended be given to somebody else. In those instances, many children walk away feeling bitter or worse the fight with their siblings.

It also doesn’t work to put tape on the back of the specific items and write names on them which is what we also find many parents do. This is true because tape with a name written on it has no legal significance. Additionally, the tape can easily be removed by other individuals. The simplest and the single best thing that can be done to avoid the disputes that can arise is to follow the advice in the remaining sections of this article.

Consider the Importance of Eliminating Surprises

Consider the importance of eliminating surprises for your family. The best way to accomplish this is by completing your estate planning. A basic part of your Idaho estate plan should include a written last will and testament which is the document you use to name and list the individuals and family members who will receive your assets, money, and property, including heirlooms and sentimental property, after you die.

You should also think about the fact that simply having a written last will and testament alone may not be enough. Many of our clients will sit down and have a meeting with their adult children to explain to them how their estate planning works. Some parents go to the length of actually providing a copy of their written last will and testament to their children. Whether or not you choose do this is entirely up to you. Your estate planning is your own personal property and only you can decide who to disclose it to and when this should happen. However, at the very least you should inform your children that you do have your estate planning done including your last will and testament and that it does provide specific written instructions about who your money, property, and assets, including heirlooms, will go to upon your death.

By informing your children that at the very least you have a written last will and testament and that your estate planning is complete, you will avoid surprising them about these things after your death. If you choose to give your children additional information, including a copy of your last will and testament, you are certainly eliminating any surprises they may have upon your death.

Use a Written Specific Gift List

Additionally, when you create a written last will and testament, you also have the opportunity to use and utilize a written Specific Gift List. By way of explanation it’s important to understand that most people who come to get their estate planning done really don’t know for sure who they want to give all their heirlooms or property with sentimental value to. Our clients usually need additional time to think about this and to decide what they want to do. Rather than being forced to come back to the attorneys and pay for revisions to their last will and testament, we provide a written Specific Gift List to our clients that they can use as part of their last will and testament.

This document is a form that can be filled out at any time in the handwriting of our clients. It gives them the ability to describe the gift that is being given as well as who that gift is going to as well as their relationship to that person. The individual then signs and dates that portion of the form. This works because there is a paragraph in the last will and testament that we use that incorporates the Specific Gift List as part of the last will and testament. The only limitations to using this form is that you cannot use it to give gifts of cash, real estate or intangible property such as bank accounts or retirement accounts. It can only be used for tangible items of personal property. Essentially, just think about things that you can touch, hold or carry and you can use this form for those items.

By utilizing this form our clients have more time to think about who they want to give their heirlooms and items of sentimental value to. Also, if our clients change their mind they can simply scratch that out and write in a new gift to a different individual or simply leave it blank. Ultimately our clients are in complete control of the decisions they make without necessarily having to involve the lawyers.

Give Your Gifts Away While You are Alive

The final and perhaps the best piece of advice that can be given to individuals who are considering giving away heirlooms or items of sentimental value is to give them away to your family while you are alive. We have found that when this occurs, these items that are given to children generally have greater value because there was a specific gift given by the parent while they were alive. This often creates a stronger bond and relationship between the parent and the child. Also, when this occurs there is no question with the rest of the family who mom and dad gave this specific gift to. This is usually the best way to avoid any type of family fight or dispute about your property.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Idaho estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or are in need of a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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